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tv   The Stream  Al Jazeera  February 10, 2014 12:30pm-1:01pm EST

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giving facebook stock to silicon valley valued at $9 million. for education. i'm del walters. the stream is next. one, and do their characters have the power to influence society? you might be surprised. our digital producer, rajahad ali is here, giving us feedback, and we have max brooks. >> comics are not just for kids anymore. as you know, i'm an avid reader
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of comic books, and i'm married. and my wife tolerates it. but we asked our community. and we have this great one, from an iraqi viewer. he said there was an embargo with everything comic books. she said that i never knew that flash avenged the death of his wife. that was back in 1991. and then gabby said, my brother taught me to read without comics, and i was a mutant. i could go: >> so what super hero would you be? >> i would say i would be batman, but i'm getting older, and i would be better as the toad.
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>> the female version of the green arrow, the environmentalist. >> we'll calleer arrowette. >> from your local newspaper comics, part of our global culture, the first comic super heroes. they stepped onto the scene in the
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first african-american, welcome to "the stream", and bax, who are the biggest users of comic books? >> when i first started going in the 80s, everybody looked like kevin smith. and i would say gender wise, it's equal.
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>> start with one issue ad guests on all sides of the debate. and a host willing to ask the tough questions and you'll get... the inside story ray suarez hosts inside story weekdays at 5pm et / 2pm pt only on al jazeera america
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real reporting that brings you the world. giving you a real global perspective like no other can. real reporting from around the world. this is what we do. al jazeera america.
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consider this. the news of the day plus so much more. answers to the questions no one else will ask. >> it seems like they can't agree to anything in washington no matter what. >> welcome back, we're joined by robert wimberly. and ron, welcome to the show. >> hey, what's happening? >> we're just wondering here, are comics actually leading the divertty? >> i wouldn't say comics are
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leading the way. comics in some ways appear to be further along than other media. just because it's a diy people. so anyone can pick it up and anyone can do what they want to do with it. i'm sure that there are a lot of staff and people working behind the scenes, and it's a lot more integrated behind the scenes. >> max hell fighter came back and why did it take it so hong? >> i wrote it as a screenplay, and i got into comics, and i said here's a chance to tell what i consider an interesting story, and i didn't have to worry about a budget or a studio system. so i've been working on this for about three years now.
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>> tell us about it for those who don't know. >> it is a true story of african soldiers in the first world war, set up to fail by the u.s. government. the last thing they wanted was black heroes marching home in triumph, showing the rest of america what they were capable. and so the u.s. army gave them to the french as a throw away, so they fought with the french and became one of the most decorated successful combat units, black or white in the u.s. army. >> do you think that comics are getting more diverse or do you think that it's in the audience all long? >> i think there's been a push back in recent years, and they make up half of the comic
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reading audience, and half at convention, and in some ways, they have been lagging behind in terms of positive representations in women in the comic pages themselves. this is an ongoing conversation, and there has been improvement. but any time you have a new character, particularly a female or minority character headline being a book, it's always something of a gambit. because at the end of the day, the comic book industry comes down to sales, and it's hard to predict how the market will respond to something like that. whether the people will pick it up and buy it, or if they just want the next edition of wolverine. >> i think we can be nuanced here, and women readers, they
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have all different points of view. hillary clinton is a woman. and so is sarah palin. so when we don't talk about how women readers will respond to something, it's going to come down to individuals. i'm specifically thinking about wonder woman, some loved it, finally she's not a sex object. and i liked her outfit, why are you putting her in pants? so i think we can be nuanced enough in every group. >> our community is sceptical:
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and billow, i want to go to you first, but you have miss marvel dropping really son, and when the marginal minority voices don't get the space, usually the biggest feedback comes from that minority community, nope, you didn't make them perfect. >> you're right. whenever you see a minority on the pages of comics, they carry an addled burden of representation. because there are so few examples of people from that group in popular culture, they carry everybody's expectations with them, and everybody wants to see their own viewpoint explained. and if you try to pander to everybody, what you end up with is a mess, so the challenge is to have a truly nuanced human being and do justice to that character rather than
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creating a cardboard cutout that's a perfect representation, or on the other side, pandering to the worst instincts or stereotypes that people have. so there's really a fine line, this. >> rob, do you think that the extra diversity is reflected in the staff? >> no, that's what i was going to say. the tokenism, and the marginalized representation of those characters, even within their own worlds, comes from there being a lack of diversity companies. >> talk about behind the scenes at the comic book companies. and what does it look like? >> well, at dc comics, when i was there, for a while, there were two people on the staff of color, and then a third came o. and i was dealing with the editor that was a person of color for a while, and then a white editor afterwards, but i
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felt like all the time that things would have been -- they had two women editors at the time that i knew, and karen bergen was heading it up, so they're making some way in that sector, but when i would talk to them about issues, i was kind of aware, painfully, that i was probably the first person of color to bring those things up to them. how do you edit a story when you don't have any experience with people of color, and you don't even have any people of color working in your organization. >> max, it's a chicken and egg, and do readers dictate what hollywood does, or does onboard? >> sometimes hollywood does make a bold move, like making sam jackson nick fury. the original nick fury was white. and the orm blade was white. and not wesley snipes, but
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what's great about comics, you have a much healthier, robust indy comic scene, and it can be started from the ground up. one of my favorites takes place in a modern native american community. which has a white guy, and it's a window to the world for me. and i don't think that would have been in hollywood because it's what is this going to cost? rob, do minority super heroes need minority talent behind them?
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not only for super heroes, blue to get it right? >> . >> the institution needs to change for there to be a non-politive represent case. and these characters, for people of color to be part of that conversation, it would allow for the whole idea of hour, and super hero ideas to be explored. so for people of color, maybe this overpowering use of force, to force people to do what you feel is right, maybe that's not part of the experience for people of color. maybe it's a different story. i've always related to spiderman, because he was a dude that i didn't see his face, and i could project on spiderman, and second of all, he was just trying to make ends meet, like he sewed his own costumes, and all of his enemies were stronger
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than him, and he was always dealing with authority. for me, not to project my experience as a black man on to people of color, but i can relate to that. most super heroes, i can't relate to that. even if i had the power, i think my experience would audit what i would use with that power. >> max, quickly, before we hit the break, do you think that white content creators have more freedom when it comes to bringing in diversity issues? because they're not necessarily agenda driven? >> i think it depends on who you're working for. if you're working for marvel in dc, that's a strict agenda, as opposed to working finance an indy company such as avatar, where you can do whatever you want. it's not so much about race but economics. that's another thing about i wouldy comics. >> when we come back, where
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comics are headed and what inspired each of them along the way. stick around.
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>> welcome back, before the break, with we talked about where comics are headed. i want to ask each of you what or who inspired you. >> a booklet i got in health class as a ten-year-old, and it must have worked because i never took up smoke, but seeing wolverine and storm kicking butt on the pages of the book
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inspired me to get into the media, and it has been downhill ever since. you? >> i think it was probably art speigelman's mouse. that was pro found teaching me about the holocaust in comic book format. >> probably the first comic i saw was in a bathroom at a christian youth group. it was a tract, and it scared me, and it was powerful. but i didn't decide to get into comics until i picked up some of the 90s independent comics, like thb and slow jams and moby, like back issues. >> our community, we asked the same question:
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and we just got this question for willow. it's a little pointed. brian asks, what would muslim miss marvel have done on 9-1-1? >> well, she was four years old, so not a lot. when we talk about the burden of representation, this is what i'm talking about. the idea that a young, teenage muslim girl from jersey city is somehow able to represent at the age of four, the muslim people, and i think that people would know if they sat down and thought about it, but it doesn't stop us from projecting onto other people. >> let me make a point here. we need to understand that just because somebody is a minority writer from a certain ethnic
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group doesn't mean this they can speak for every person in the muslims, christians, and what does latino mean? it gets very complexed and nuance, and we have to keep that in mind. >> we have an obligation, because you're african-american and writing about african-american issues. >> that's for me, i don't choose to write about black experience, because to me it means an experience that i'm creating for white readership. i'm expressing my experience, but i think that the black community does, maybe it doesn't exist as a cohesive element. but it does exist for something. this is from the outside.
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so when somebody says to me, obama gets elected. and aren't you happy that we have gotten so far? well, obama is a very particular type of black man. his success doesn't necessarily mean the same to a kid from brownsville who never had a great edition, but for a lot of my liberal white friends, well, of course, you know, we have a black president, so the black community as one has something to be proud. and i think they do, actually. but i don't know, so i see what you're saying, but it's very nuanced. >> willow, minority representations don't necessarily mean something good represented. >> i think, as we were saying, it's impossible to portray the entire spectrum of an experience through the group lens of one character.
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nor should one try, because what you end up with makes no sense. i think that ron is exactly right. you try to portray the experience of an individual within the context of that group. so it's an evolving conversation, and i think it's good that we're having discussions like this. this is not something that we have gotten right. and it's not something that's going to be solved tomorrow, so it's an ongoing thing. >> so we have 30 seconds left. max, who do you hone or what is inspiring the comics of the future? >> well, my hope for the future is, when we talk about diversity, we're moving past white and non-white and moving past the diversity of each group. and hopefully we can write about individuals and try to keep them if a being ambassadors for the group.
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>> until next time, raj and i will see you

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